The East Village loves its cafe with “a taste of Vienna and old Bohemia.” Depending on the time of day, different types of food can be on the menu, but the atmosphere remains consistently warm and friendly with the fresh aroma of coffee wafting throughout the café. In the mornings, it might be a simple pastry or croissant, but later in the day, included on the short menu are European cheeses and meats paired with a selection of wines. No matter the time, however, it is easy to just sit back in their comfy chairs, select something to peruse from the hanging rack of daily newspapers, and settle in for a few hours of reading or sharing a conversation with someone seated nearby.
When life brought Chef Ali Sahin from Turkey to the USA, his first American address was in the East Village. Though he studied economics back home, in New York City he worked in restaurants, first as a bus boy and eventually as a cook. When he decided food was something he might want to turn into a career, he went to culinary school to learn essential techniques, such as how to prepare the perfect egg, something Ali told me chefs love to talk about but few dare to actually serve in their restaurants.C&B (“Coffee and Breakfast”) Café serves eggs all day long - really good eggs - along with other brunch plates. The chef uses his small kitchen to its fullest potential, even going so far as to make sausages in house, and hopefully one day his own cheese.On the afternoon that the Manhattan Sideways team visited, Ali arranged a beautiful bowl of chicken and eggs, one of the café’s top selections. The slow-poached eggs, each cooked for over an hour, and the flavorful shredded chicken with potatoes and toast perfectly captured the café’s fine dining approach. They enjoyed each bite of the colorful dish while Mr. Brown, “The Espresso King,” crafted beautiful lattes, teas, and pour-over coffees for customers working at the communal table in the back of the shop.Ali told us that all thirteen of the C&B menu items are created using only seasonal, local ingredients, which is why he never serves avocados. To Ali, sourcing is the most important part of cooking. He explained that while growing up in Turkey, all his food came from provincial farmer’s markets, as there were no supermarkets in the region. With that in mind, he modeled his café after one of his old East Village haunts and one of his favorite cafes in LA that serves solely organic fare.East Village dwellers appreciate Ali’s vision: the café opened in January 2015 but already boasts a large number of repeat customers. Ali takes the time to get to know the regulars and has really helped C&B to take root in the neighborhood. The walls of the café are adorned with paintings from community artists and even some of the cafe’s staff. Ali drew the café’s logo himself to reflect the leaves of the American Elm Trees growing across the street in Tompkins Square Park.Serving the most important meal of the day all day, while emphasizing healthy, wholesome ingredients, C&B Café is gearing up to become a new neighborhood favorite.
Abraco Espresso started in a little nook on the other side of the street before it moved to its current larger space in 2016. The shop invites coffee lovers to stop by and enjoy a fresh brewed cup - according to many it might be one of the best you will ever experience. The space is perfect for those who wish to gather round and chat or just to savor their sweet homemade treats along with the exceptional coffee.
Do not be deterred by the bottleneck entrance, just continue walking toward the back where there is a welcoming outdoor courtyard that is always open, and heated in winter. The coat of warm, red paint on the walls, the rock and jazz music playing in the background, and the fireplace make this a cozy place to settle in with friends. The steaming cup of coffee, heaping with frothed milk, is smooth and light, exceeding all expectations. If you are as taken with their blend as we are, they package and sell their own beans. When we dined here our brunch was fresh and delicious, served with hearty bread, rice and beans.
With so many coffee shops featuring increasingly complicated menus, 9th Street Espresso has instead opted to keep it simple with a menu of only four drinks: brewed coffee, iced coffee, espresso, and espresso with milk. This devotion to minimalism is echoed in the café’s décor: the original’s 10th street neighbor is located in a slender, uncluttered space with white walls, wooden floors, and little seating. Here too, coffee is the main event: the café’s central wall decorations, complementing an elegant map of the world, are ground coffee displayed in wall pockets close to the back of the store.
Sam Sepulveda grins as he talks about working in 787 Coffee’s new location in the East Village. “Here, when I’m doing the barista position, I get to tell the story, and people really enjoy that. Because most of the time you don’t know where your coffee’s coming from. And for me, it’s really fulfilling to say, ‘Hey, we planted this tree.’ These beans are my babies.”787 Coffee is a small and cozy cafe, with a wall of windows gazing out at 7th Street, and exposed wood beams crossing the ceiling. The coffee mugs and bags are decorated with images of old San Juan, colorful buildings that evoke Sam’s favorite place in Puerto Rico. Manhattan Sideways opted to try a cortado and a seasonal pumpkin latte. Rich and buttery, the coffee was the perfect treat for a chilly autumn afternoon.In 2014, Sam and his partner, Brandon Pena, purchased an abandoned coffee farm in Maricao, Puerto Rico. Located in a secluded region high in the mountains, the population of Maricao had been dwindling over the years as the agricultural industry that once formed the bedrock of its economy faded and young people moved away in search of jobs. Sam and Brandon picked the location, in addition to the quality of its land for coffee-growing, in the hopes that their business would have a positive impact on the community. They employ locals and follow higher than fair trade standards. “What we pay our workers in an hour, sometimes they pay that in Africa or South America in a two-day shift. So we’re making a difference there. We’re making a difference in their lives.”Neither Sam nor Brandon was a coffee expert at the start, so they traveled the world learning how to grow and make coffee. The pair started out by selling green (a.k.a. un-roasted) beans before deciding to go vertical in 2016. Now they handle every aspect of the coffee-making process themselves, from planting and harvesting to roasting to latte art.The journey has not been without its setbacks. In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated 787 Coffee’s plantation, destroying 92% of the crop or approximately 30,000 trees. The hurricane also forced them to close their first coffeeshop in Maricao, but the pair has not let that slow them down: they managed to salvage as much coffee as they could from the wreckage and, as of the fall of 2018, were in the process of replanting. And then, at that same time, after several successful pop-up cafes, they opened their first permanent New York City coffeeshop in the East Village. Like every aspect of their business so far, the coffeeshop is first and foremost about the people. They want it to be a place where guests feel welcomed and at home, where the environment warms them as much as the drinks. “We don’t sell you a cup of coffee,” Sam says, “We sell you an experience.”
The only genre of music missing in Academy Records is classical....but not to worry, that is completely covered in their shop on 18th. Otherwise, this shop, here on 12th Street, has an impressive selection of rock, jazz, soul, funk, country, and folk. In chatting with one of the owners, he told us that they are always actively looking for "new" records and are constantly receiving inventory. In addition, they host DJ events.
I guess it would be quite obvious to those who have been reading my site since the beginning, that my particular passion, besides Manhattan itself, is books. I have been a frequent customer of the Strand since I was a little girl and my mom made this a destination on a New York City outing. Their stock has certainly increased from the few book shelves that they began with in 1927 on Fourth Avenue - to the 4,000 square feet that they moved to here on 12th Street, in 1956 - to today's space of 55,000 square feet. The "18 miles of books" consisting of old, new and rare books covers several floors. For years I just treated this shop like it a was museum, especially the Rare Book Room upstairs. I would step in and browse for hours, wanting everything, but not being able to justify purchasing it all. Then I opened my own book shop, inspired by the Strand. Despite their avenue address, the Strand has carts of books lining 12th Street rain or shine and a side street entrance. They also boast a Central Park kiosk open when weather permits and a pop-up location in the Club Monaco on 5th Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets.
Considering the multitude of rave reviews that Hearth has received since it opened in 2003, we were pleasantly surprised at the unpretentious and warm greeting we received. Although reservations for the dining room are recommended, especially during peak times, some of the best seats in the house are first come, first served. Pull up a stool at the bar and sample one of the artisanal cocktails made with New York produced spirits, or walk straight through the softly lit, exposed brick and red-walled dining room to the open kitchen and grab one of the four chairs right at the counter where the food is being cooked. During our visit, one of the sous chefs was cutting apart ribs right in front of us.When we visited, we learned that the menu changes slightly each day, always highlighting the freshest ingredients and trying to be as environmentally conscious as possible. However, a few favorites have remained on the menu since they opened over nine years ago, including the Grilled Quail and the Beef and Ricotta Meatballs. Many of the dishes are meant for sharing, like the Whole Roasted Fish of the Day.In 2016, chef Marco Canora upgraded the menu to focus on fewer processed flours, sugars, and oils. There are also many more dishes featuring offal, such as heart and liver. The purpose of the shift is to highlight food that is high in nutrients and does not contain growth hormones. If the resulting cuisine is anything like what we tasted when we visited, diners are in for a treat.Hearth’s extensive and well thought out beverage program is also intriguing, with a wine list focusing on certain grape regions, plus off the beaten path beers. With such an inviting and comfortable dining room, an exciting and ever-changing menu, and an impressively curated beverage list, Hearth presents the total package for a perfect night of dining.
Coppy Holzman moved to New York in 1976, and in the years since has undertaken multiple entrepreneurial projects. Most recently, alongside his daughter-slash-business-partner Logan Mikhly (who used to manage an animal rescue in New Orleans), Coppy opened Boris and Horton, a dog friendly café off of 12th street in the East Village. During our conversation, Coppy said, “I’ve moved away from New York here and there, but New York’s the best city on the planet, so why live any place else?” (Relatable!) But he and Logan had one issue: while walking around the city together, they found that there was nowhere they could stop in to eat or even grab a coffee with their dogs, Boris and Horton. They decided to solve this problem, and Boris and Horton opened its doors in February of 2018, offering great food and coffee, wine and beer in the evenings, and, of course, the opportunity for customers to spend quality time with their dogs, others’ dogs, and fellow dog-lovers. The vegetarian café sources its products from more than 20 local suppliers, including products from NYC staples such as pastries by Balthazar, cheese from Murray’s, Tea Pigs teas, and homemade syrups. The menu boasts both comfort foods and lighter options, and the wine and beer list rotates monthly - so there is always something new to try. But it’s not just humans who can get treats at Boris and Horton. For the pups, there are pupcakes, doggie doughnuts, french fries, beefcheek and other delicious delicacies made fresh by Maison de Paul. And when your furry friend is tired out from all the socializing and snacking, there are Casper dog beds available to fulfill all his napping-dreams.Logan and Coppy realized very quickly that Boris and Horton had become a community space. While half of their visitors are tourists, many of whom learn of Boris and Horton through social media or other news coverage, half of the customers at the café are neighbors of the business who have made Boris and Horton a “stop on their daily routine.” In response to the café’s important role in locals’ daily lives, the father-daughter duo decided to expand their space, doubling it in size. In October of 2018 they opened the renovated extension, which includes an expanded seating area in the front, a colorful bespoke mural on the wall, and, notably, a party room in the back which is perfect for corporate events, human-birthday parties, dog-birthday parties, or any other kind of event you can imagine. Though the small fraction of the café’s space that includes the kitchen and main serving counter is not open to dogs due to health code requirements, the other 75% of Boris and Horton, including the entirety of the new extension, is completely dog friendly. Coppy assured me that New York is “a wonderful place for a dog,” though before Boris and Horton New Yorkers might have struggled to find somewhere they could take their dogs along for Friday-night drinks. In fact, if you’re considering bringing a dog into your own routine, you can attend a weekend rescue event at Boris and Horton, where — just maybe — you’ll meet your new best friend. In collaboration with Muddy Paws Rescue, Boris and Horton has helped to find forever homes for up to twenty dogs in a weekend: pretty doggone amazing. If it’s human relationships that you seek, Boris and Horton may still be the place to go. With weekly events like trivia and bingo, Coppy and Logan are helping to “build up the community DNA.” As Coppy told me, “Dogs are a great way to engage . . . it’s a catalyst for easy conversation.” If customers meet at Boris and Hortonand end up dating, “then that’s even better!” Coppy said. He even admitted that sometimes he’ll do a little matchmaking in the shop. And yes, there have been success stories. Then, of course, any weddings following such successes can be booked for the event space, and can even be ordained by Coppy himself, who is not only a matchmaker but also a minister. “I think people are wonderful, and they’re even better when they have a dog by their side,” Coppy said, smiling. At Boris and Horton you’ll find the best of the best, from comfort food to good company — human or otherwise. On this little corner of 12th street, at least, Manhattan Sideways is happy to report that New York has officially gone to the dogs